iscally I’ve done okay as a writer. I didn’t make any money off Fire and Bronze (the publisher folded after the sudden death of it’s president). Early ReTyrement broke even. Made a lot of money off Don’t Jettison Medicine and the subsequent followup short article/radio scripts. And then there was the erotica – that’s like a fun little hobby that pays for itself. I couldn’t live off this (unless I lived in a cardboard box under the freeway) but I do get a trickle of cash for all my efforts.
But not everything is money.
Went over to the house of a couple we hang with for New Years. Walked in and there on the table was Early ReTyrement – I’d recognize that cover anywhere. Turns out the wife, a very friendly and outgoing Vietnamese lady, is reading my book with a thought towards suggesting it to her book club. And she’s actually enjoying it.
And that’s nice. I asked the usual question (“so where are you at”) and thought the usual thought (“Thank God she can actually name an event in the book – this isn’t a fake”). So we chatted about it and shared a couple of smiles.
And that’s really your payoff – knowing that your writing voice has actually been heard, that you did get into someone’s head, that Mason and his Pharaohs Granary and his franchised restaurant and his computer actually went beyond your own thoughts and keyboard, that they’ve gone into the world and lodged in someone else’s head. Really, that’s the big payoff of being a writer – having someone recognize you.
I’ll mention a film moment where this happens. In the beautifully crafted Amelie, a young girl attempts to do good to all those around her. In the bar where she works, there is a failed writer who sits there all day and degrades himself and his failings, a total sad sack. But she manages to get hold of his failed manuscript. One day he’s walking down an alley and there on the wall is a quote from his book, simple graffiti which is, in a sense, immortalizing. The writer sees this, stops, stares, and then continues on his way, a little jauntier than before.
That’s the payoff.